Madeleine Albright Scores A Perfect #22!


Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in some respect the perfect surrogate for Hillary Clinton, another former female Secretary of State. She has not been the deftest of supporters, however. The last time she made the news and Ethics Alarms with the statement that women who didn’t support Hillary Clinton would burn. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” she said, making a pure and shameless group identification argument for Clinton’s candidacy.

Now, however, she has outdone herself, warming the cockles of Ethics Alarms’ heart by giving us a perfect Number 22 on the Ethics Alarms rationalization list [ The last perfect #22 honored here was this, in 2014]. I had conceded the Rationalization Championship in this campaign to Donald Trump and his supporters, as they avoid ethics entirely most of the time and default to rationalizations as a matter of reflex . Do they know rationalizations are neon markers of unethical reasoning? No, they don’t. The Donald’s favorites appear to be… Continue reading

The Crime That Can’t Be Charged: Humiliation And Harm For Money

I hate this topic with a passion. It has come up often: the exploitation of desperate attention-addicts in celebrity reality shows, dwarf-tossing, the ancient pastime of paying geeks and the deformed to present themselves for public ridicule and dehumanizing treatment, and more. The problem is that the phenomenon is indistinguishable from other, societally-approved examples of paying individuals to harm themselves or be humiliated for our entertainment. Pro football, of course, harms more human beings in one game than all the dwarf-tossing since the beginning of time. Child actors are harmed for money, and often they don’t even get the proceeds, or give meaningful consent.

Every example I can imagine feeds directly into the vile Rationalization #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.” The problem is that all of those worse things are legal, and likely to remain so. Yes, there are worse things than paying a drunk to dance like fool in exchange for a few dollars to buy his next drink, like paying young men millions of dollars to pound their brains into jelly. That’s our national pastime!

And yet—how can a society tolerate this? From the AP...

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Police in New Jersey say no charges will be filed after a stranger paid a homeless man $5 to pour coffee on himself twice. Police say that’s because Ronald Leggatt consented even though he was embarrassed. The 65-year-old tells the Asbury Park Press he let a stranger videotape him pouring coffee on his head on Monday in Lakewood because he needed the money….

I wish I had a solution. I’d like to know the name of the scum who did this, but then what? Post his name for vigilante justice? I would argue that there is no valid consent when an individual agrees under duress and desperation, but then what is society saying—that a man can’t exchange a humiliating act for money he desperately needs? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Three Breasted Ethics”

Alexander Cheezem contributed an informative and well-argued comment challenging my ethical conclusions in the case of “Jasmine Tridevil,” who supposedly had a surgically constructed third breast attached between her two natural ones in an effort to become a reality TV star. Her story turned out to be a scam, but the ethical analysis is still worthy of consideration. Ethics Alarms doesn’t have many medical ethics dilemmas to ponder, and it is a fascinating area. As I considered  Jasmine’s titillation, I suspected it might be a hoax, but from the standpoint of honing ethics alarms, it doesn’t matter. I’m kind of relieved, frankly. Continue reading

“It’s Not The Worst Thing”: Slate’s Jamelle Bouie Delivers A Virtuoso Performance Of The Worst Rationalization Of Them All

"Obamacare is a success, and even if it's not,  it's not worse than nuclear war. So there."

“Obamacare is a success, and even if it’s not, it’s not worse than nuclear war. So there.”

This is excellent: I always am looking for the most extreme example of any kind of misconduct, lie, rhetorical fallacy or rationalization, so I have something to measure all others against. Jamelle Bouie, the resident Obama flack at Slate, just delivered a dandy for my future scale of infamy for Rationalization #22 on the Ethics Alarms list, the Bottom of the Barrel, the favorite excuse of the shameless, the ethics-challenged and the desperate sociopath, “It’s not the worst thing,” or “The Comparative Virtue Excuse.”

It’s a deft turn, and a welcome one: so much attention is being lathered on the prisoner exchange fiasco that the parade of other Obama Administration-created ethics train wrecks are being ignored for the nonce…and perhaps that was the objective. The late Mike Kelly, the sharpest conservative political analyst the Washington Post has ever featured on its pages, half-seriously suggested that seeding so-called scandal fatigue was a conscious strategy of the ethically corrupt Clinton White House, and Obama has taken this to levels then unimagined. Among other, the Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck barrels on at an impressive clip. Yesterday, for example, it was revealed that yet another flaw in the enrollment process has left 2,000,000 Americans who think they have insurance at risk of finding themselves uncovered.

To unconscionable fake-journalists like Bouie, however (a real journalist is one who follows the facts to where they lead; a fake one cherry-picks the facts that take him where he wants to go), it doesn’t matter: the Affordable Care Act, he tells his gullible or retching readers…

“…looks like a success. Between the state exchanges,, and the Medicaid expansion, an estimated 17.2 million people have received health insurance under the law. In turn, according to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has dipped to 13.4 percent, down 3.7 percentage points from where it was at the end of last year.”

This species of argument, which has become the standard practice for the Obama Is A Great President Despite All Evidence To The Contrary League, is one of two things, and two things only: proof of mental deficiency, or conclusive evidence of dishonesty. Either one, I would argue, should disqualify someone from writing commentary in Slate, or for that matter, Weekly Reader. Continue reading

The Perfect # 22: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo

jogger-arrestedI’ll grant you that Ted Nugent’s asinine efforts to minimize the unethical nature  of his uncivil words about President Obama by tweeting his views on 44 “more offensive” forms of conduct were a pretty good example of my least favorite rationalization in action. That rationalization is #22, the Comparative Virtue Excuse, or “There are worse things.” (There are always worse things, of course.) Never mind: Ted is playing in the minor leagues. Art Acevedo, Austin’s excuse-master  police chief, really knows how to swing a #22.

A bystander took a video of Austin police detaining and ultimately arresting jogger Amanda Jo Stephen after she crossed an intersection at a red light and failed to obey orders from an officer after he saw her jaywalking, because she was wearing headphones and couldn’t hear him. My view: the police over-reacted and used excessive force (she pulled her arm away when the officer stopped her, and he treated is as resisting arrest), but wearing head phones that make it impossible for you to hear what is around you is 1) dangerous, 2) stupid and 3) obnoxious. Continue reading

Ted Nugent Ethics, Part 2: Nugent vs Bump


If asked, I would have said that it would be impossible for even the most ethically muddled blogger to discuss Ted Nugent’s revolting “sub-human mongrel” denigration of the President and make Ted look relatively astute by comparison. And I would have been wrong.

I wouldn’t even have answered in the affirmative if I had been warned that the parody of a progressive, Phillip Bump, was on the case. Bump was last featured here when I dissected his inept attack  on criticism of the Obama children’s unusually lavish vacations. In a post on Wire, however, Bump does the impossible, and in the process, actually proves the diagnosis that has been offered in many forums regarding the warped ethical values and priorities in the progressive camp. To too many of them, race really does trump everything. Moreover, the obsession with race and racism can make one look foolish even compared to Ted Nugent, who looks foolish compared to Barney the Dinosaur, Justin Beiber, Flavor Fav, Valeria Lukyanova, a.k.a. “Real Life Barbie,” Michele Bachman, or “Jackass II.”

Over the weekend, Nugent issued 44 fatuous tweets asserting that various conduct and policies of the President or his administration were “more offensive” than his  racist slur to describe President Obama. This is, as any regular reader here will note, an example of my least favorite of all the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list, the dreaded #22, “The Comparative Virtue Excuse,” or “There are worse things.” Attempting this argument, in my view, is proof positive that one is an idiot or a scoundrel, and usually both. Wrongful conduct is never excusable or mitigated because other conduct is somehow more wrong. An individual who reasons in this rudimentary way can rationalize literally every kind of unethical conduct, from cheating on a spouse to serial murder (“Well, at least I’m not a mass murderer!”) I call it the “bottom of the barrel,” and so it is. That Ted Nugent sought to defend his racist and ugly slur this way is signature significance that he is an irredeemable, indefensible jerk.

If Bump had any sense himself, and he does not, he would have dismissed Nugent’s offensive idiocy by citing the rationalization at work. Instead, he commenced upon the fool’s errand of comparing each of the 44 “worse” things cited by Nugent (several of them barely coherent) to racism, which in Nugent’s case means only the vilest variety of name-calling. Here is some of the conduct that Bump argues are definitely not “worse” than Nugent’s words:

“a biased lying media”
“bribing & rewarding bloodsuckers & con artists”
“buying votes”
“Fast & Furious”
“government out of control”
“government spying on Americans”
“hating America”
“Presidential lies”
“racial preferences”
“the racist knockout game”
” runaway fraud, deceit, and government corruption”
“violating your oath of office”

We are talking in the abstract here, remember. Bump isn’t arguing with Nugent about his interpretation of whether the President or his administration really engaged in these things; he is truly arguing that an addled rock singer uttering offensive words is more objectionable than all of the above, each of which has tangible, in some cases devastating negative consequences affecting lives, and in some case millions of lives. Bump’s priorities are stunning in their Bizarro World detachment from reality. He writes,

“Some of these are obvious. “Presidential lies” would be less offensive than racist words because racism is worse than lies.”

Racism, even the essentially victimless variety displayed by Nugent—these are just words, after all, directed at the most powerful man in America, who can, will and does brush such attacks off like gnats— is certainly worse than many kinds of lies, like those on Judge Kozinski’s list. It is assuredly not worse than substantive Presidential lies, which affect elections, policy, finances and lives. Ted Nugent’s pathetic, nasty, self-mutilating name-calling? Insignificant. “If you like your current health care plan, you can keep it—period”? Not just offensive, but catastrophic and a mass national betrayal. To Bump, however, that Nugent’s is a greater offense is beyond debate. To whom?

Yes, Phillip Bump is more offended by the silly blatherings of a has-been singer than he is Obama lying to the electorate. Or violating his oath of office, an impeachable offense. Or politicians engaging in voter fraud. Or news media bias, which makes competent democracy unworkable. In his own ideology-poisoned way, he’s every bit as crazy as Nugent.

Is Bump typical of progressives in his conviction that so much misconduct is less harmful than racial slurs? I find that difficult, and too frightening, to believe. Any group that believes mere words are so dangerous is on the verge of advocating censorship.  Ted Nugent may be a racist and a fool, but his priorities, with all their many gag-inducing flaws, are more rational and ethical than those of Phillip Bump.

And they’re not as offensive, either.


Graphic: Cinedork

We Are All Dan Snyder Now


…and isn’t that a revolting development?

Few things infuriate me more than when unethical conduct by an individual or organization force me to side with the supporters of a position or a cause that I oppose myself. Last year, to cite the most egregious example, I found myself in the same camp with the National Rifle Association, Ted Nugent and worse when anti-gun zealots, uncritically backed by the news media, used dishonest, misleading, irrational and emotional appeals to try to pass more stringent gun ownership regulations on the wave of national horror over the Sandy Hook shooting. Indeed, the more fake statistics and shameless slippery slope arguments (“If we can save the life of only one child…”) that were aimed at guns and  law-abiding gun owners, the more I saw the wisdom of Second Amendment absolutism.

Thanks to the exorbitant and irresponsible rhetoric by the likes of Diane Feinstein, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Piers Morgan, Jim Carrey and others—Don’t tell ME what I “need” to protect my family and home; there’s a possible serial killer on the loose in my Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood at this very moment who has been randomly knocking on doors and shooting people—I no longer trust the government to make rational decisions that affect my options as a potential gun owner. Good work, guys. Before you started using kids as props, lying about the number of shootings, and sounding for all the world like a nation trying to make sure only the government could own legal weapons, I was a supporter of more stringent firearms regulations. You lost me. I am officially convinced that we may need  guns to protect ourselves against power-abusing people like you.

Now members of  Congress are trying to strong-arm Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder into changing the name of his football team, using the power of the government to pressure him, through the National Football League, into bending to their will on a matter that is absolutely none of their business. Great. Now I have to stand shoulder to shoulder with Snyder, whom we in the Washington area know as a spoiled rich kid, a bully, an egomaniac and a meddling fool who has progressively reduced the region’s beloved football team to tragic joke.

And you should stand with him too, if you think our Bill of Rights is worth preserving. Continue reading

“Ghosting” Is Unethical

I don't care if you are dead, Marley; when you leave my party, say good-bye.

I don’t care if you are dead, Marley; when you leave my party, say good-bye.

Slate contributor Seth Stevenson has an interesting justification for being rude: good manners are too much trouble.

This is the way the world ends, as T.S. Elliot would say.

Stevenson argues that instead of saying goodbye and thank-you to one’s host at a party, the best way to exit is “the Irish good-bye,” or in its non-ethnic stereotype form (Irish guests are presumed too drunk to say good-bye, you see), “ghosting.” “Yes, I know,” he writes. “You’re going to tell me it’s rude to leave without saying goodbye. This moral judgment is implicit in the culturally derogatory nicknames ghosting has been burdened with over the centuries.” That sentence is signature significance for me: Stevenson is an unethical jerk. I get comments and e-mails all the time accusing Ethics Alarms of “moralizing” or being “sanctimonious” when I write that obviously unethical conduct is obviously unethical. That’s because unethical people who do unethical things feel much better about themselves if nobody calls them on it, so they can maintain, as one recent commenter did here who was, I’m proud to say, chased away by the rest of you (and me) with torches and pitchforks, that ethics is “100% subjective”—Translation: “If I want to do it, it’s ethical.”

That’s essentially Stevenson’s reasoning, too.  “Is it really so bad to bounce without fanfare?,” he asks. Continue reading